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News & Stories: 2009-10

A Calvin librarian rates the Kindle
August 4, 2009

In November of 2008, Hekman Library purchased a Kindle, an e-reader from Amazon.com. Since then, Steven Putt, Hekmans electronic services librarian has been putting the reader through its paces. "Every time I have this around, people say, ‘Ew, weird. Is that the Kindle?’” Putt says. He shared his insights on Whispernet, page numbers and E Ink, among other things.

Steven PuttWhat is a Kindle?

A Kindle is Amazon.com’s e-book reader. It claims to hold more than 200 books. The Kindle uses the cell phone network to let you visit the Internet, including Amazon.com’s Kindle Store where you can buy books or download free books. (Users can download content from Amazon Whispernet using the Sprint network.) This is significant because, if you’re a cell phone user, you know that nothing you use on your cell phone is free.

Why did the library purchase a Kindle?

The library purchased a Kindle to better understand the current state of book publishing. We have more than 300,000 e-books in our collection.

What’s the first book you read on the Kindle?

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism

What features does a Kindle have that a book doesn’t?

The first is the Whispernet, which uses Sprint cell phone technology to wirelessly deliver content. The other features are the ability to create notes and bookmarks. The Kindle includes the New Oxford American Dictionary. You could go on Wikipedia if you wanted to. I would say that the Kindle is more of a reading tool than a research tool.

What is the experience of reading on a Kindle?

I’ve found it to be enjoyable. It uses another proprietary technology called E Ink.  … It’s supposed to be like paper. It’s easy on your eyes. It’s nothing like staring at a computer screen. It doesn’t radiate. The E Ink technology has made a number of companies interested in competing for the e-book reader market share.

So, you like the experience?

It’s a little bit tricky because it doesn’t have traditional page numbers. It has location points. So, if you were reading the paper version of a book, and I were reading a Kindle, we couldn’t be sure we were on the same page. It’s very convenient to have a number of books on your Kindle when you go to the beach. And it is an MP3 player.

Do you miss the feeling of a book?

I revere the book. The narrative of any book is better served by physical pages … As you’re reading a book, a print volume, you will look ahead to where the section ends and plan to read to the end of a section. Or, you might be at a critical point and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to read one more chapter.’ In the digital realm, your sense of progress is less linear … If you’re already an avid reader, this is probably complementary to your enjoyment.  My sense is that the Kindle does not really aim to replace the print volume in any other way than as a product.

Do you see a day when books are largely replaced by digital technology?

I think of the library as a child of the museum, so there will always be books, expectations for being able to use them change.

Are there drawbacks to using the Kindle?

The drawback is that digital content is fundamentally unstable. That’s the theory. On a practical level, the current population of humans is not so good at file management.

What is the last book you read in hardcover?

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

Note: Hekman Library currently offers no Kindle-specific services.

~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing

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